CHECKING OUR MEZUZOS
All mezuzos(1) must be checked periodically to verify their
kashrus. Everyone who lives in a dwelling(2) (whether he owns it
or rents it) is Rabbinically obligated to check his mezuzos
twice in seven years, or once every three-and-half years(3),
since it is an established fact that over a period of time
mezuzos are liable to become pasul. Age, humidity, rain,
location, a paint job and/or other factors may ruin a mezuzah
which was originally kosher(4). Even if one letter is smudged or
cracked, the entire mezuzah may no longer be valid and often,
cannot be fixed. It is imperative, therefore, to check mezuzos
periodically and be prepared to buy replacements(5).
The three-and-half year time frame established by the Rabbis
applies only to mezuzos exposed to normal conditions, not to
mezuzos that have to weather harsh elements like direct
sunlight, exposure to a sprinkler system, a paint job6, etc.
Such mezuzos must be checked more often(7). [Indeed, some
meticulous individuals check all of their mezuzos every Elul(8).]
Some people are lax about checking their mezuzos claiming,
among other excuses(9), that it is difficult to find a
professional sofer who will come to the house, remove all the
mezuzos, check them, and re-affix them in short order. Since
people are wary of leaving their homes without the protection of
the mezuzah for any length of time - and justifiably so -
checking mezuzos gets pushed off and sometimes neglected
But since all that is necessary to ascertain the kashrus of the
mezuzah is to verify that the lettering had not faded and that
the letters are whole and fully formed, anyone who reads Hebrew
can check and render a verdict. No professional sofer or rabbi
is required(10). Of course, if a question were to arise about a
specific letter, then one would need to refer to his rav for a
Obviously, this type of checking suffices only if the mezuzah
in question was certified kosher by a professional sofer at the
time of purchase. Before one places a mezuzah on his door post,
he must have it professionally checked to be sure that it was
properly written. [Unfortunately, buying a mezuzah from a
Jewish-owned establishment is no automatic guarantee that the
mezuzah is kosher.] Once, however, the mezuzah was certified as
kosher, all future checking can be done by any layman as
In order to check a mezuzah, it must be removed from the door
post. If it is removed for only the few moments that checking
requires, there is no halachic obligation to replace the mezuzah
being checked with another one(11). The mezuzah is removed,
looked over carefully, and if no problem is found, immediately
returned to the door post. One does not recite a blessing over
the mezuzah when re-affixing it to the door post(12).
But sometimes the checking process can drag on for a number of
hours or even a few days. In such a case, it is improper to
leave the house (or any single door post) without mezuzos.
According to some opinions, the people in the house may even
have to move out while the mezuzos are being checked(13).
Obviously, this is a terrible inconvenience and highly
To avoid this eventuality, there are several possible
1) Buy [or borrow(14)] an extra mezuzah which will replace the
mezuzah that is being checked. A blessing would have to be
recited when the replacement is put on(15). This solution is not
practical for a large house that has many mezuzos to be checked.
2) Renounce ownership of one's home(16) for as long as the
mezuzos are being checked. This procedure, called hefker,
removes halachic ownership from the home and makes it an
owner-less entity. Once ownership of the house is renounced, the
obligation to put on a mezuzah is lifted. The residents are
living in an owner-less property, and they are not obligated to
put on mezuzos for at least thirty days(17).
The proper way of being mafkir an item is to renounce its
ownership in the presence of at least three adults. The adults
may be household members. [Some Rishonim maintain that the
hefker is valid even when declared in front of one individual or
even in front of no one at all(18). If three adults are not
available, one may rely on this view(19).]
When mezuzos are removed for more than several hours, a
blessing should be recited when they are re-affixed. If all the
mezuzos are re-affixed at the same time, one blessing suffices
for all of them. The poskim argue as to whether one who replaced
a mezuzah and forgot to recite the blessing can recite the
blessing later on. One my conduct himself according to either
1. Mezuzos which are publicly owned must be checked only once
every twenty-five years - Y.D. 291:1.
2. This includes a woman living alone, students sharing an
3. In order to remember this obligation, the custom in Frankfurt
was to check the mezuzos every Adar Sheini, which falls every
two or three years.
4. Another reason for checking is to see if the mezuzah was
stolen [or misplaced] - Rashi Yuma 11a. See also Meiri, ibid.
5. Y.D. 291:1.
6. Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:183. L'chatchilah, mezuzos should be
removed before painting.
7. Aruch ha-Shulchan 291:1.
8. Mateh Efrayim 581:10; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:3. In
addition, Teshuvos M'haril 94 writes that it is proper to
examine one's mezuzos if misfortune befalls an individual or his
family, G-d forbid.
9. It must be emphasized that there is no halachic basis for
laxity in this obligation. See Birur Halachah, pg. 399, who
quotes several sources that strongly condemn those who are not
careful about fulfilling this obligation.
10. Teshuvos Chasam Sofer 283, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah 291:3.
11. Da'as Kedoshim 291:1 (concerning a renter); Eimek Brachah
12. Pischei Teshuvah 289:1 remains undecided on this issue but
most poskim rule that one should not recite a blessing in this
13. See Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 285:1 quoting the Pri Megadim who
maintains that it is prohibited to remain in a house [or in a
room] without a mezuzah and one who has another place to go to
must go there. Other poskim, however, are not as stringent and
do not require one to move out of his home if the mezuzos are
14. Har Tzvi Y.D. 238.
15. Harav C. Kanievsky (Mezuzos Beseicha 289:6); Kuntres
ha-Mezuzah 289:6, quoting several poskim. Other poskim, however,
do not require that a blessing be said (oral ruling by Harav M.
Feinstien, quoted in Oholei Yeshurun, pg. 22).
16. This is suggested by Mikdash Me'at 285:3 and Mezuzos Melachim
285:19. There are other halachic areas where this solution is
suggested, see Mishnah Berurah 13:15 concerning tzitzis; O.C.
246:3 concerning a Jew's animal on Shabbos. For various reasons
not all poskim agree with this solution. [See Sefer Tevilas
Keilim, pg. 84, who quotes Harav S.Z. Auerbach as ruling that
under extenuating circumstances one can rely on this solution to
permit temporary use of utensils which were not ritually
17. Although one who "borrows" a house is required to put on
mezuzos after a thirty-day time period, in this case it may be
argued that the people living in the house are not even
considered "borrowers". Halachically, the house has no owners to
"borrow" from. The house is technically owner-less and
temporarily exempt from the mitzvah of mezuzah.
18. Rama C.M. 273:5. .
19. See Sm"a C.M. 273:11, Mishnah Berurah 246:15 and Sha'ar
20. See Kuntres ha-Mezuzah 289:3.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and
Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne
Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily
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